Wrinkled Hosta Leaves – Causes and Fix

Wrinkled Hosta Leaves - Causes and Fix

Hostas are perennial plants that are long-living, low-maintenance and quite easy to grow and care for. These plants will grow pretty much anywhere, as long as they are not exposed to direct light for long periods. They can grow indoors or outdoors, and make a great addition to your garden or as an indoor plant to help brighten your living space.

If you hosta’s leaves suddenly appear wrinkled, this is most likely due to an environmental factor that is causing the plant stress. The cause can be as benign as the plant getting a little more sun than it needs, or it can be so overwatered that it now has root rot. The first step in resolving the problem is to correctly identify what caused it in the first place.

The most common causes of wrinkled hosta leaves are overwatering, underwatering, too much light, not enough light, humidity, temperature, pests, and transplant or repotting stress.

In this article, we will discuss the different causes of wrinkled hosta leaves and how to remedy each.

Why are my hosta leaves wrinkled?

1. Overwatering

One of the most common mistakes hosta owners make is overwatering their plant. This can be done by giving the plant more water than it needs each time you water it, watering it more often than needed, not adjusting the watering schedule to the change of season, using a pot without drainage holes, or using poorly-draining soil. All of these circumstances result in the plant’s roots standing in waterlogged soil for extended periods of time.

When the plant’s roots stand constantly in soggy soil, they are unable to dry out between waterings. Without drying out, they do not get access to oxygen, which they need to survive. They will drown and die, and will no longer absorb water and nutrients from the soil to feed the plant. This leads to an overall decline in the plant’s health, hence the wrinkled and curled leaves.

If the plant is overwatered for weeks on end, the dead roots will start to rot and become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens in the soil. These pathogens will make the rot more aggressive, and it will spread even faster to the rest of the plant. Before you know it, the stems and leaves will be soft, mushy and wrinkled, and there will be next to no chance of salvaging the plant. At this point, it is less trouble to simply discard the plant and to start over with a completely new hosta plant.

If you are fortunate enough to catch the overwatering in its early stages, all you have to do is stop watering the plant immediately and allow the soil to dry out completely. Drying out the soil will dry out the roots as well, and this will give the plant the time and oxygen it needs to recover.

If you suspect root rot, you will need to remove the plant from the pot and shake off as much of the old soil as you can, because that soil is contaminated. Be gentle as you do this, because the roots are very fragile at this stage. Inspect the roots and cut off any brown or black ones, because those are rotten. Use a sterilized knife or scissors to do this, so that disease is not spread to the healthy roots. Spray the remaining roots with fungicide and let the plant air-dry for several hours. After the plant has dried out, replant it in a new pot that has drainage holes at the bottom, using well-draining potting soil.

2. Underwatering

Another reason your hosta leaves may be wrinkled is if you have been neglecting its watering needs for too long. Hosta plants can tolerate a certain level of drought, but only up to a point. If the plant’s soil is always dry, there will be no water for the roots to use as a transport system to absorb the plant’s required nutrients. The plant also needs moisture in its stems and leaves to keep it rigid and sturdy.

If the plant has a limited amount of water and does not know when the next rainfall will come, it will ensure its survival by conserving its stored water for its most essential parts. In a plant’s case, the most important parts are the roots, and the least important are the leaves and other foliage. The result is wrinkled, curling leaves, because these are purposefully being deprived of water that will be used for the roots to keep the plant alive as long as possible.

If your hosta is severely underwatered, you can save it by soaking all of its soil with water as soon as possible. Flush the soil with water until the excess flows out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Sometimes, if the soil has been dry for too long, it will harden and become almost hydrophobic. If this is the case, you may need to loosen the soil up first so that the water is able to penetrate it more easily. In the days and weeks to follow, you might have to water the plant more frequently than normal, just until it is able to recover completely. Once the plant has recovered, you can go back to watering it only when you need to.

To avoid over- or underwatering your hosta plant, it is best to check the soil first. Touch the top two inches of soil with your finger. If the soil is dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.

Also learn to take note of your local climate, the season of the year and the current weather conditions. Adjust your watering frequency accordingly, every time you water the plant.

3. Too much light

As mentioned above, these plants grow well outdoors as long as you do not place them under direct light for long periods of time. If you leave the plant under the hot sun, this can lead to considerable sun damage such as dried-out leaves due to increased transpiration. As the leaves lose their moisture, they will become wrinkled and will start to curl. Curling is the plant’s way of reducing the surface area that is exposed to the sun and heat.

If you are keeping the plant outside, make sure you keep it on the patio or the porch. You can also place it under the shade of a large tree or under a garden net. If the summer heat is too much, it is best to move the plant to a shaded area, since it will do just fine in low light conditions.

If you want to keep the plant indoors, place it near a window – preferably a north- or east-facing one. If the only window available is letting in harsh light, you can diffuse it by placing a sheer curtain over the window.

4. Not enough light

Although hostas do well in shady areas, they do still want some sunlight from time to time. For hostas with variegated leaves, they need some exposure to light for the variegation to remain pronounced. If the plant does not get enough light, it will not be able to photosynthesize properly. As photosynthesis is the process of food production for the plant, being unable to do this will result in the plant starving.

You may notice some of the plant’s stems becoming longer and thinner, and the newer leaves appearing smaller. This is due to etiolation, or the elongation and lengthening of a plant’s stems because it is trying to grow toward the nearest source of light. The plant is so desperate to reach any light in order to photosynthesize, that it will put all of its remaining resources into lengthening certain limbs. This condition is not fatal to the plant, but it will affect its aesthetic.

To save a hosta plant that is not getting enough light, place it in a spot where it will get more bright, indirect light. Make sure to rotate the plant every couple of days so that all sides of the plant get their time in the light.

During the winter, when light is scarce, use a grow light to support the plant so that it still gets the light it needs.

5. Humidity

Hostas are not sensitive to subtle changes in humidity, but the leaves will wrinkle if they are subjected to low humidity for long periods of time. Low humidity causes the leaves to dry out because of the exposure to dry air.

If you keep the plant indoors, the humidity inside most homes will be sufficient. However, if you keep it near heating vents or air conditioners, the warm and cold drafts will dry out the plant’s leaves very quickly. Also, if you keep it near doors or windows that lead outside, there could be cracks where cold drafts pass through and come into contact with the plant, even if it is inside the house.

If the humidity in your home is too low, you can help the plant out by placing it in the bathroom, kitchen or laundry room, because these are the most humid rooms in most houses. You can also mist the plant with water once in a while, or place the plant’s pot on top of a water pebble tray. When the water evaporates, it will moisten the leaves as well as the soil in the pot. You can also place the plant near other plants that like humidity, so that together they can create a microclimate around themselves. If it fits your budget, you can also purchase a humidifier to help automatically regulate the humidity in the room where the plant is kept.

6. Temperature

As with humidity, you should not  need to do much to cater to your plant’s temperature needs. Room temperature is generally enough for this plant. Avoid exposing the plant to temperature extremes, be they too cold or too hot. Extreme temperatures will stress the plant and the leaves will wrinkle. If the weather outside is too hot for your plant, it is best to take it indoors or into the shade. Some hosta varieties are fine with being kept outdoors in winter, since they are dormant and need temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit for dormancy to start. But, for the hosta varieties that do not do well in the cold, rather bring them inside before the frost starts.

Exposure to cold and warm drafts will also affect the leaves of the hosta plant. Not only will they dry out; they will also become wrinkled due to the changes in temperature.

7. Pests 

Pests can also cause the plant to become stressed and the leaves to become wrinkled. Snails and slugs will feed on the leaves of this plant and deplete its nutrients and moisture. You can treat these infestations with snail- and slug-specific treatment that is available from any gardening store.

8. Transplant and repotting stress

If you have just bought your hosta plant and are taking it home for the first time, do not be surprised if the leaves become wrinkled and droopy over the next few days. This is because the plant was grown in a greenhouse or nursery when the living conditions are ideal. The moment you take the plant out of this place, the temperature, humidity and light conditions will be drastically different from those the plant has been used to for the past few months. The drastic changes in living conditions will cause immense stress to the plant, but remember that this is usually temporary. The best thing you can do in this situation is make sure you create living conditions in your home that are as close as possible to those in the plant’s natural habitat. The more comfortable the plant is while it adapts to its new environment, the faster it will recover. Soon enough, the leaves will regain their normal vigor and life.

In the same vein, hosta plants that have outgrown their old pot will need to be transferred to a new pot, probably with new soil. This process is traumatic for the plant’s roots, so it should come as no surprise that the plant’s leaves may become wrinkled and droopy from the stress of being repotted. The best thing to do after repotting a plant is to provide it with the best possible growing conditions so that it can recover as quickly as possible.

Conclusion

A hosta plant with wrinkled leaves is stressed due to one or multiple environmental factors, and these may be benign or life-threatening to the plant. The first and most important step in fixing this problem is to correctly identify the cause of the problem so that your treatment can be specific and the plant can recover quickly.

The most common causes of wrinkled hosta leaves are overwatering, underwatering, too much light, not enough light, humidity, temperature, pests, and transplant or repotting stress.

Image: istockphoto.com / Anna Khromova